I Know What's Beneath the Snow Fields -Chp.52

Confusion could not grapple these strange emotions. They all slipped through his numb senses, fluttering about in the dark. There was no sound in this empty existence, no movement, no surroundings; just the darkness.

"It's very cold here...am I all alone?" he wondered to himself.

Suddenly, a burst of brilliant white light exploded into his haggard eyes. He did not understand its meaning, only that the flash has piereced clean through his torn mind.

An insane fire instantly engulfed his body head to toe. The pain started its murderous rampage...again.


The little boy sprang up in bed, panting loudly for air, small hands both atremble: a nightmare. He had just escaped the most horrific nightmare.

Intense fear shook him to the very core. His eyes gaped wide into the darkness ahead. Without even a tinge of sight, he instantly groped around for his stuffed mog. On discovering it burried under the blanket, the distraught child embraced the precious toy all to himself. He even buried his tear-stained face against its soft head.

"..N..Nana?" he whimpered weakly. Nothing stirred in response.

The child waited a long time. He peeked through his tears in a vain search for someone. Utter emptiness haunted the bedroom. In his anxiety, he cast another futile look around when the door finally caught his notice.

It stood ajar. A meagre light smuggled through the crack, and cast a thin, long strip of yellow across the black ground. Strange to say, nothing else could be seen in this darkness except that one shred of light.

The child stared in bewilderment at that door, his sole gateway out of this void. So, mog in hand, he quietly slipped out of bed, then pattered up to the door. He opened it half-way.

Rather than wait outside, the greedy light flooded in all at once, drowing his sight to total blindness. He didn't resist. Instead, he simply surrendered to a fate which left him in limbo.

Yet the dazzlement only endured another moment. The boy, through a strange twist of events he could not remember, found himself wandering down a deserted corridor in search for someone.

His little feet made no sound against the cold marble floor. He crept along the wall, darting his anxious eyes from corner to corner in suspicion. Darkness stretched to infinity. The horrible monsters of his vivid imagination eyed this child from the shadows. They would have devoured him whole had he not that brave mog to ward off all danger.

As the frightened boy roamed through this huge labyrinth of silent halls, he gradually discerned a single voice not too far away. It sounded like a man's, deep and quite gruff.

The boy neither recognized the voice nor understood any of the actual words. Nevertheless, he found himself drawn towards that one voice, like a stray wanderer to a warm fire.

He noiselessly persued the mysterious echo further down the hallway, where it led him up a flight of broad marble steps, and around some obscure corner. The hunt ended at some large oak doors farther down the hall.

The ornate doors had been left ajar against each other, with a bright light flickering through the narrow crack. A deep voice boomed within. It ranted to itself in some heated conversation. The little child cautiously snuck up to these ominous doors. He peeked through the bright crack into the room inside.

Vague blurriness marred the interior: patches of hazy colours and obscure shapes barely recognizable. Yet the boy's eyes soon fell on some stout man in a loose robe. He stood at his impressive desk, directly infront of the doors, so that only his broad back could be seen. This man furiously rummaged through a disordered stack of papers, at the same time heckling into the phone. Irritation marked his every movement, from his stern voice to the way smoke fumed from his cigar.

Struck by such a curious stranger, the child edged a bit closer to listen.

"..yes...yes, that's right...20%," agreed the angry man as he flicked through some sheets, "...increase the arms sale..artillery shells and riffles...12.9 and 6.4...that's 19.3% on the export tax...what?"

A long pause followed, during which the busy man found enough time to smoke then scribble some brief notice on one paper, all the while listening attentively to the phone. The silent boy marvelled at the triple task.

"Ah, wake up, man!" the incensed stranger cried suddenly, "It's war! Of course they'll pay that much!.....if Sephiroth's the general, then it's sure guarentee....alright, alright! You double-check those figures again, then I.."

So interested in this scene, the little child tilted his weight further forward, when much to his alarm, he suddenly lost all balance. To prevent a fall, he clumsily stumbled against the door, which at once swung open to reveal his hideout.

Before he realized it, the speechless boy found himself in plain view of the entire room.

The conversation was effectively cut short. At this most insolent interruption, the angry man turned around to confront the intruder. Yet on spotting a child there, whose height barely reached the doorknob, he froze in absolute astonishment. He still held the phone up to one ear, cigar shoved aside in his twisted mouth.

The little boy stood rooted at the threshold of the door. In his sudden fright, he had dropped his precious mog, where it now lay face down at his bare feet. His counternance betrayed pure terror.

Both seemed totally shocked by the other. However, it only took the man another moment before a most ominous scowl overcast his face. Obviously, he would not take this intrusion too kindly.

"I'll call you back in a minute, Heidegger," he dismissed curtly into the phone.

No sooner had he he slammed it shut, than the man instantly demanded, "Who the hell are YOU, boy?"

The sharp voice startled the poor child. He fumbled for some reply.

"How'd you get here? Speak up!" thundered the man again.

"..I..ah...I don't k-know," the boy faltered against perturbed tears, "..I woke up...it..it was cold...Nana..she wasn't there..."

Anxiety reduced his tremulous voice to meek silence, one in which he stood trembling under hostile scrutiny. From his place over at the desk, the man surveyed this petrified child top to bottom. He was not pleased at all.

"Ridiculous! Just Ridiculous!" he broke off. The exasperated stranger stormed away behind his desk, where he buzzed one button several times.

"I'll fire them! Servants now tagging along their brats like my house is a damn nursery!" he growled through his fuming cigar, "Yes, the whole western front's ablaze in war, and I waste my time on a stupid rugrat!"

The pitiful child shrunk away at this bitter anger, especially that hard, cold glare he received from the furious man. Fear shook his limbs.

"What's your name, boy?" interrogated the man at once.

He struggled for his voice again.

"I said what is your name?"


"Rufus what?"

"Rufus ShinRa"

An awkward silence followed.

Strange enough, the name stuck the man harder than a bolt of lightening. He froze solid on this little child for perhaps a full minute, his whole face the picture of shock in its extremest form.

Yet the boy only stared back. he did not understand the significance of his own name.

Finally, when the man had overcome enough of his astonishment, he beckoned the boy forward with a curt "Come here". His voice, however, sounded far more composed than before.

The child, after much mistrustful hesitation, induced himself to obey. Rufus slowly trotted up to the man, where he stood statue still.

For his part, the man showed such peculiar interest in this child, totally contrary to his previous vexation. He loomed overhead to examine every detail. Nothing escaped his keen notice.

Suddenly, a broad grin stretched across his face, thereby revealing his good-humoured surprise.

"Hah! Well I'll be damned!" he exclaimed aloud, "You've grown up quite a bit, eh? Ha ha...no wonder I didn't recognize you! How old are you now, boy?"

"..n..nine..," the child stammered confusedly.

"Nine? Nine years! You've been around here for nine whole years and I never saw you once? Amazing!"

Rufus only tensed in his spot. The presence of this stranger filled him with such discomfort, almost a loathing dread.

"Heh heh...why the scared look, kiddo?" laughed the man, bestowing a clumsy pat against the child's head, "Don't you know me? I'm your father! Your daddy!"

The foreign word escaped the child's simple comprehension. He gaped up at the stranger, his expression blank to the joyous announcement. Yet Rufus could not distinguish this man's face. Every feature had been smudged over by a hazy blurr.

"And here I thought you were some dirty kitchen boy. Now then, let's have a look at you," the man scanned him over for a second inspection. He picked up the boy's little chin, then twisted it aside, "Oh! You're gonna be taller than me! Hm..hm...my! Aren't you gonna be the handsome young man once you've grown up! It already shows, by Gaffrey!"

The man heaved another laugh at the predictions. The confused boy hardly understood one word, but succumbed to this awkward treatment all the same.

The scene soon ended on the arrival of rushing footsteps. There followed a hurried knock against the door before someone ventured inside.

"You called, Sir?" asked a woman's voice, very respectful but equally breathless.

Rufus turned his eyes to the new speaker, and recognized "Nana", his governess.

All events strangely melted into a swirl of confusion, at which the child found himself trapped within its mad centre. He remained rigid in his spot while the man had scolded the ever apologetic maid; that she must keep this child in check; that he wanted Rufus removed at once, and would not tolerate any future interruptions. Rufus then felt himself roughly dragged away. The huge doors slammed shut the instant he cleared the threshold.

He hadn't understood anything. He fumbled for his beloved mog but found it no where. He must've forgotten the poor toy back at that room. Suddenly, it ended. A strange darkness descended whole upon him. Sensation was lost, awareness erased, only scraps of some torn conscious left adrift in mayhem.


~...it doesn't matter...~

~...Nana was very angry at me...she said I'm always a bother. She put me straight to bed, and left me alone in the dark. She wouldn't go back for my mog...~

~...I was having a nightmare...the room was so dark...~

"It's very cold here...am I all alone?" wondered one flat voice through this black fog. It sounded like his own.


The image of a haggard young boy, no older than fourteen, struck him blank until he realized it was his own. Rufus found himself face to face with with a rectangular mirror, hanging so neatly above a clean, white bathroom sink. Silence hammered his ears to deafness.

He stared an eternity at that face. A sickly pallour coloured his sallow skin. His vaccant eyes shined through his hair strands, clear evidence of a rageous turmoil inside. Yet nevertheless, the expression remained as hard as chisled marble; perfect stoicism.

Rufus gazed a long time at the mute image on the opposite side. At last, he reached for his side pocket, and pulled out a small razor blade.

The boy examined this curious object. He flipped it between his graceful fingers in complete fascination: so clean, without a single stain. So sharp, its edge smooth and blemish-free.

~...oh, that's right...I remember now...~

Rufus deliberately rolled his sleeve up to the elbow, then clenched his fist tight. In one steady movement, he slit his wrist; one cut clean across the skin.

~...I tried to kill myself that day...~

The boy marvelled at this grievous deed. Dark blood seeped through the wound. It trickled down his arm, where it dripped so neatly off his elbow.

Crimson red, such a wonderous colour for his empty eyes to behold. He held his arm up, idly observing the red droplets plunge to their doom, each one stealing another ounce of his life.

Shards of broken thoughts raged around, inhuman and totally unfamiliar. Each one tugged at him in a different direction.

~...I really wanted to kill myself that day...~

~...I was angry...~

~...why? Why be angry?...there's money...so much money...servants... land and wealth.... people...they all flock around... they worship me to the very ground....~

~...I see through them!! Everyone lies! They just want more..more land ...more power...more money! They're all alike...greedy leeches... hypocrites and liars!!...~

In the midst of that venomous outburst, Rufus slowly dropped his distraught eyes down to the ground. His lifeless arm hung dead by his side. The blood tumbled off his cold fingertips onto the neat tile floor below.

"So why be angry?" he asked himself, his voice too dispassionate to be normal, "I was born here...amongst them...it doesn't even matter anymore. I'm already one of them... no...no...I'll be the worst one...."

~..is that why I was angry?...~

"It's too late...it doesn't even matter anymore..."

His weak voice soon trailed off into the far distance. Sight faded. Sound was overpowered. In one final breath, his conscious collapsed to darkness again, and he felt no more.

Yet the madness went on. A dozen little torutous thoughts squeezing past his lonely voice.

~...I guess someone found me later....I remember...I woke up in a white room, in some strange bed. My wrist was wrapped up in a bandage, and a tube stuck in my arm...I felt sick for days...

"When I woke up, no one was there."

~...no. Not even him. I think...he had an important business conference that day, then a big dinner party. He was too busy to come...or maybe he just never found out...that's okay. I didn't expect him to...~

"When I woke up, no one was there."

~...I was cold...~

It started again. Brutal pain seized his entire mind by the roots, wrenching out a flood of strange flashes he couldn't grasp. Each wild light shocked his eyes. Yet at the centre, he glimpsed writing: texts and texts of mindless drivel all scrawled out before him. They made no sense at all.

Then just as suddenly as chaos broke out, it ended again. Everything, including his ravaged conscious, disintegrated to oblivion.


When his eyes shot wide open, he found himself trapped amidst a huge crowd of people; their empty chatter rang through his ears. He also discovered a crystal wine-glass held between his fingers, filled to the brim in the luscious, purple drink.

Rufus beheld this festive pandemonium in silent awe: the people had no faces, just grey shades smudged onto their obscure visage; ghosts of no substance, loud and chaotic. They were dressed in the best fashion, men in smart suits like himself, ladies in elegant dresses. They never ceased talking.

He knew not where he was. He recognized no one. The place appeared to be some grand ballroom, amidst some sort of party.

He drifted amongst these strangers, nodding here, smiling there. Clever wit to prove one's worth; speech intended to impress, with a confident sweep back through the hair. It's form that counts, not content.

Despite his estrangment, he fitted in perfectly. He belonged among these silly spirits. Yet while part of his being haughtily dictated the proper actions, another half seemes to observe him from afar, invisible but still detectable. He didn't find this torn feeling new at all.

"Now then, Mr. Rufus," suddenly called a merry voice from behind, "Enjoying the banquet, I hope? It's not everyday you drop by from busy Junon to see us!"

Rufus turned around to face a short, corpulent old man. Though his flabby face had been blotted over by a cloudy haze, this stranger bore an appearance of prominent importance, from his impressive suit up to his filthy cigar.

"Yes, Sir. Thank you," Rufus replied most graciously to the question. He paused a moment, then added, "The music is particularly nice."

"Ah! You like music, eh?" the gentleman asked with sly interest, "Nothing like a man with a musical ear. I've been told you yourself can play the piano."

"Only a bit, Sir."

"Hah! No, I've been told (from a reliable source too) that you're an *excellent* pianist! Why, I'll bet my bank notes you can play better than him!"

He indicated the sprite middle-aged musician who played the grand piano over by the window, at the same time winking encouragingly to Rufus. The young man, however, fidgetted in mild discomfort.

"I fear the source is too kind, Sir," he declined with forced politeness, "I'm not nearly that good a pianist."

The man gave him a long, disappointed look.

"Still, I'd love to hear you play," he regretted aloud. He eyed Rufus very meaningfully from the side.

The wish was interpretted as an order. Rufus wisely desisted any further protests.

The man, beaming with triumphant delight, bustled away for the preparation. Therefore, in no time flat, Rufus found himself seated infront of the grand black piano. The ivory white keys gaped back at him in patient wait.

"What would you like me to play, Sir?" he inquired dryly.

The man, who hovered over Rufus' shoulder from behind, merely laughed the question aside, "Anything! I don't care! Let's just see those graceful little fingers of yours dance with the sweet music. Ha ha!!"

The clumsy poetic attempt strained Rufus' eyes into a sour, cold gaze, but it remained locked down on the keys. He slipped off his gloves, then flexed his fingers a moment. Rufus hardly thought. His hands lifted up, and played the first song that came to his mind.

He never once lifted his eyes, even though he discerned the attentive gentleman linger behind, as watchful as a vulture. Instead, Rufus watched his own fingers glide along, sweeping out an allegro of sweet-sad music. Both hands moved in graceful elegance, every movement timed perfectly with each note. Indeed, he knew this famous piece too, too well.

~...I don't like this song...in fact, I never liked the piano either... it reminds me of my mother...~


Rufus nevertheless continued to play, listening to the music swirl into this ghost monologue. They both haunted the abandonned corners of his brain alone.

~...I've only seen her once. One night, there was this big dinner party at our house...so many people...so much talk, food, and wine. I guess I was five. I was supposed to be in bed, but instead, I snuck out of my bed-room, and tip-toed to the ballroom to peek inside. My mother... she was playing the piano for all the guests...this song, I think. That was the only time I ever saw her. I don't even remember her face. I just remember her there, at the piano. I know I watched her for a long time....~

He could not hear the music anymore. His hands slid across the keys, all ten fingers in an incredible sweep downwards, hardly aware of any effort. Yet to him, there was no sound. Only tiny whispers of insanity.

~...there was quite a scandal later on. That same night, after all the guests had went away, my mother left the house, and never came back. She took all her money, and disappeared forever...~

~...I wasn't sad she left...maybe a bit hurt for a while....~


~...because my mother took her money, but didn't take me....~

"Ah! BRAVO!!!" bellowed the man's loud voice so suddenly, scattering the fragile thoughts to oblivion.

Rufus was startled out of the strange trance. He found both hands frozen on the keys, with the last musical note still echoing into the air. All this time, he had been unconscious of his own movements.

"Very, very beautiful!!" praised the impressed gentleman. He clapped his flabby hands together, "Ha ha! I *knew* you were an excellent pianist! Well done!!"

"Thank you, Sir," Rufus acknowledged.

His tone lacked any emotion. However, inside his head, if he listened carefully, he could hear a lonely child wailing.


The banquet had been impeccably prepared. Dozens of tables dressed in their best finery: elegant silverware polished to perfection; white table cloths spread out beneath the cutlery. The air was abuzz in idle chat. Celebrity dignitaries, important businessmen, fashionable ladies, all faceless, sat at their tables. They laughed at anything, or talked of nothing.

Rufus was alone again with the same portly gentleman, this time at one table in some private corner. An overly-eager waiter, probably the head butler, served their dinner in the most gracious manner. Each steaming dish was a beauty to behold. Dainty delicacies and rich sauces (only the finest, to be sure) laced the sumptuous main course.

"And one Bolonga-Vanier wine," the gentleman selected majestically from the wine trolley, even though he had mispronounced the entire name.

The honoured waiter nevertheless replied "Yes Sir! At once!" Indeed, if he had been asked to kiss their shoes, this man would have undoubtedly still obeyed. The expensive bottle was uncorked, and the dark drink poured out. When thus finished, the attentive butler retreated away with a string of bows.

"I tell you, Mr. Rufus, music and good wine are the only solution to all troubles," declared the good-humoured gentleman, "Food for the soul, and drink for the mind, eh?"

Rufus nodded his head in agreement, but hardly smiled at the clever wit. His face was marble stoic. The man, however, laughed all the more heartily before turning to his delicious dinner. Rufus lingered a moment over his plate, then followed likewise.

They spent a long time at the table, discussing many "important" topics while eating. Yet for all his attempts, Rufus could not grasp the events: the food eaten literally had no taste; the words spoken made no sense. Everything rolled by without waiting for him.

Between this inconsistancy, Rufus felt a wild tempest of pain reak havoc through his mind. Insane flashes came crashing into his sight. Again, he spotted that mindless drivel at the heart of the storm: mountains of texted jargon, strange geometric diagrams, and snippets of faces he'd never seen before; all zipped by like mad.

But the turmoil only raged inside. Outside, he sat unaffected, almost unaware, of anything save this conversation.

Rufus was surprised to discover that the dinner had somehow finished. The empty plates had been removed, and the wine-glasses refilled. The corpulent gentleman had shifted his weight back against the chair in complete satisfaction. He held another cigar in between his fingers.

Rufus sat back in his chair too, both legs and arms crossed in cool composure. He watched the easy man enjoy his cigar without a word.

"And then you must have a taste of the dessert here," invited the pleasant gentleman after a few easy puffs, "Pure heaven! Why, I could never.."

"I'm afraid I can only stay for dinner, Sir," apologized Rufus in a voice that left no room for compromise, "I must return to Junon City tonight. I'm scheduled to meet the ambassador tomorrow morning."

"Leaving so soon? Oh, what a pity! You only arrived yesterday."

The abrupt news of departure rather dispirited the man. Rufus nevertheless gestured to one of the passing waiters, who instantly scurried away to fulfil his command. Soon, the waiter returned with some fancy brown-leather file, and placed it square infront of Rufus.

After sending for his coat, Rufus began flicking hurriedly through this file, at the same time saying, "If it would not be too much a bother, Sir, I just ask your signature on some papers before I leave. A mere formality the ambassador requires, I assure you."

"Paperwork, paperwork," sighed the fat gentleman in knowledgeable defeat. He drew out his elegant fountain pen, and clumsily signed wherever indicated.

Rufus shuffled quickly through the many papers and dull formats, explaining any necessary details. Never once did he lift his eyes up, as if rummaging through this file occupied his sole interest. Nor did the gentleman ever interrupt him. On the contrary, he seemed far too silent.

"I've already reviewed the details of the lease contract with the head lawyer," informed Rufus as he ran his finger down a list of numbers, "..that's the final tax account for the next five years...plus the investment shares of the Sea Reactor...a total of 78.75%, and of course the..."

"Mr. Rufus?" cut in the man.

Rufus dutifully stopped, and looked askance.

"Mr. Rufus, are you aware that I am your father?" asked the gentleman, himself bemused by this sudden discovery. His bulky weight leaned forward against the table for a closer, more shrewd inspection. No doubt, he had been studying Rufus' face all this time.

Rufus held his gaze in cold silence. He said nothing.

"I'm your father, you're my son. It just occured to me right now, when I remembered your last name," though quite subdued, his voice still brimmed in true fascination, "Amazing! I look at you, and wonder to myself 'A son? I have a son?! By heaven, when did THAT happen?'"

A wild chorus of sensations tingled Rufus' mind. He thought he glimpsed a word... some bold title...thoses same unfamiliar faces again...that same jargon scrolled out bare...

Yet that storm was inside. Outside, he was stone-cold.

The hefty man released another cloud of dirty cigar smoke with a sigh. He then leaned backwards again as his sight reached up to the majestic ceiling.

"Ah youth! I remember way back when I first started this company," he reminisced in fond nostalgia, "People laughed at me: the idea of using Mako... a stream of glowing 'stuff'...they all thought it a fool's dream. Hah! Well, look who's laughing now! I rule the world and all those lowly saps beneath! My vast Mako kingdom, from the highest mountain peak to the deepest ocean."

~...yes...mako and more money....in a kingdom of leeches and liars...~

Rufus did not flinch. His eyes remained locked on the faceless man.

"But suddenly, one realizes how many years have past by since then. I'm sitting here, listening to my clever little Vice-President, then realize he's also my own son!"

The amazed man exclaimed heartily at Rufus, "All these years, all this time, there was no one! Then one day, poof! Magic! You were just there to become my Vice-President...my business partner!!"

~..your business partner...~

~...no...the turth is, I was always here...you just never noticed.... or maybe you just forgot...~

~...that's okay...I never expected you to remember anyway...~

"But you're still my son...*my* son," pronounced the man. He shifted aside in his chair as he eyed Rufus very keenly, "Outside, it doesn't show. You'll be glad to know you don't look ONE BIT like me. Heh, you probably look just like your mother. That's where you got all you looks and high-class refinement: mommy."

~...yes...mother...she forgot me too...~

"But inside, you're exactly like me. You think like me, see the world like me, and ambitious, Sir, just like I was at your age. Heh heh...ShinRa blood! That's what it is!"

~...like you?...no...I'm much worse....the blood is so rotten, it stinks all over....~

~...but it's too late now...~

~....it doesn't matter...~

~...and I don't care anymore....~

Pain again. Agony ripping through his skull in a murderous path. The wild dance of insanity restarted. Intense lights, faces, heaps of texts, all swooped down upon him, one after another, until they tore his conscious apart.

He grasped the title at last: JENOVA Project: AdM-Genesis Retrial Expt.

Then all plunged to blackness.


A glass pane.

Rufus could see his own reflection clearly against this mute fašade. He stood rooted infront of the large window, both hands dangling loose by his sides. His eyes, cool as a calm sea, gazed stoically at the grim horizon far ahead.

It was much darker inside here than outside. The view opened onto an eerie battlement of haunted buildings, their tops raised in vain to the nightsky high above. Not a single light in sight. Not a sound stirred the dead-calm air. All creation lay in silent anticipation of some event.

Strange enough, Rufus didn't care to move. He saw no need to.

The same madness ranted on through his ears. It pounded hard against his head, a merciless sucession of stabs all into his brain. The thoughts became too scattered; erratic whirlpools beyond control. Nothing made sense.

Over and over it flashed: JENOVA Project: AdM-Genesis Retrial Expt..... JENOVA Project: AdM-Genesis Retrial Expt...JENOVA Project: AdM-Genesis Retr...

~...they say it's a tragedy...~

~...what is?....~

~...that man...when he died, everyone was saying to me how sorry they felt...it was a horrible tragedy....a painful loss I must bear...~

~...liars..I see through them...they just want more...~

~...a pain? It doesn't hurt. A loss? I never lost anything. Why be sad?...why be angry?....~

~...no...when he died, I was...........happy....~

~...to see him there...dead...to have him rot in that grave.. in the dirt... with nothing....that made me happy...~

"It's very cold here...am I all alone?" peeped his muffled voice into this mad ramble.

~...but that's not enough...I want more...~


"It's very cold here...am I all alone?"

~...yes...I want his hatred...I want him to hate me..to suffer by hating me...~


~...I don't know....~

~...maybe because I hate him too...~

The texted jargon, printed shapes, unknown faces, all crashed upon his mind like a waterfall. Dozens of flashes tugged at him from each direction.

It never ceased: JENOVA Project: AdM- Genesis Retrial Expt.... JENOVA Project: AdM-Genesis Retrial Expt......

Suddenly, it came.

His sight raced straight into a mad pool of light. The rumbling stampede shook the room. The window pane rattled wildly to warn of an eminent catastrophe, with the insane heat shooting high up to the ceiling.

Yet Rufus didn't move. He saw no need to.

One explosion. That was all.

The ear-splitting blast screamed through his head. One mighty force hurtled him away through wild shrapnel and torrents of glass daggers, at the same ripping his limbs apart.

Fire. The hellish inferno swallowed him whole, every hungry flame eager for delicious flesh.

His conscious crashed into another darkness far more absolute than any other. No emotion, no senses, no surroundings. All incinerated to ashes.

"It burnes me up, but it's still cold inside...am I all alone?" trailed his voice from a distance.

No one replied. All he heard was the lonesome wail of some child, lost forever in this black mist. 

His head hurt unbearably.

-End of Chp.52